The One Player You Must Acquire
Justin Upton, B.J.'s kid brother, has been called up to The Show. Baseball America considers Justin, hands down, to be the minors' best prospect. It also considers Justin to be better than B.J. Are these fair assessments?
Justin Upton (2007)
Melvin (Bossman Junior) Upton (2004)
Well, Justin's birthday is Aug. 25, 1987, so he has played in Double-A this season at age 19. B.J.'s birthday is Aug. 21, 1984, so he played the 2004 season at almost exactly the same age.
A superficial look at the stats suggests, yeppers. Playing in the same league (the Southern League), Justin has hit for far more power and worked the strike zone better. B.J.'s sole edge appears to be as a baserunner. I'd say that edge is distinct, as B.J. has the tools to steal 40 bases. I think 20 would be more realistic for Justin.
Justin's edge isn't as good as it seems, however. The Southern League is a much more offensive league this year (Justin's team's games average 9.40 total runs). When B.J. played there, his team's games averaged 8.53 total runs (10 percent fewer runs). So consider Justin to be a tick or two better than B.J. at the same age.
But I doubt Justin will run into the issues B.J. has (B.J. was just plain misused by the Rays in 2005-06). Justin could suffer through growing pains for the next 2-3 seasons as he adjusts to the majors. But in keeper leagues, grab him NOW. This is the hitter you've been waiting for since you missed on Miguel Cabrera. Justin's combination of age, performance and tools suggest he'll be a consistent .300 hitter with 500- to 600-homer potential.
Justin might not be in the Ken Griffey Jr./A-Rod class as a prospect, but if he can stay healthy, his career totals could be similar to Junior's.
Trade Deadline Recap
Well, the deadline loomed, then passed, and a passel o' prospects changed hands. I'm not going to do much breaking down of who went where because this is fantasy baseball, not a Peter Gammons column. Peter is a much wiser head than I when it comes to analyzing the big (real-life) picture. When it comes to our little artificial world, however, I feel confident that I can detail the value of the young bodies who have changed hands.
I've looked over the prospects acquired in the deals, and I would like to elaborate on the cream of the crop. But before I go into detail on the "big" names, let's take a quick look at some of the lesser lights. Chances are they will be fantasy afterthoughts. But there often is gold among the dross, so a few of these guys could end up being useful in the deepest leagues.
Brewers: Steve Garrison is a 20-year-old lefty who was just promoted to high-A. He has excellent command, but his stuff is mediocre. … Joe Thatcher is a deceptive lefty reliever with nice stats and average pitches.
Mariners: Jesus Merchan is a 26-year-old third baseman who batted .330/.398/.478 at Double-A Reading. I'd love the guy if he weren't two months older than Justin Morneau.
Giants: Rajai Davis is another 26-year-old 'tweener prospect. He was batting .318-.384-.469 with 21 walks and 25 whiffs in 211 Triple-A at-bats before getting the call to Pittsburgh earlier this season. He has excellent speed and defense and could be a decent No. 4 or No. 5 outfielder in deeper leagues.
Mets: Dustin Martin, 23, is an outfielder who batted .286-.355-.419 in high-A. There's a slight chance he'll develop into someone useful. … Drew Butera looks like dear old dad, Sal, with 22 whiffs and two walks at Triple-A Binghamton and a .188 batting average.
White Sox: Michael Dubee is a 21-year-old righty reliever who has a low-90s fastball and a solid curve. He is in low-A and isn't likely to be more than a sixth- or seventh-inning guy. … Jon Link is a 23-year-old righty reliever in high-A. Link has a low-90s fastball, with good command and solid power (11 walks, 45 whiffs in 41 innings). A deep, deep sleeper.
Rangers: David Murphy, 25, was batting .280-.347-.423 for Triple-A Pawtucket. He could be a solid hitter (nice power potential in his swing), and he's a decent defensive center fielder, but he's likely to be a reserve in the bigs.
Padres: Scott Hairston is a 27-year-old rake artist. He's likely to be a bat off the bench, but the past three seasons, he has posted OPSes at Triple-A Tucson of .940, .992, .995. I'd love him in a deep league if he got a platoon job (he kills lefties) …
Diamondbacks: Leo Rosales is a 26-year-old righty with a great changeup and little else.
Devil Rays: Calvin Medlock is a short (5-foot-10) righty with decent stuff. He had 59 whiffs in 47.2 Double-A innings but has struggled with command in Triple-A.
Persons of Interest
Engel Beltre, OF, Texas: A 17-year-old with tremendous offensive potential, Beltre is doing a thoroughly mediocre job in the Gulf Coast League, batting .215-.314-.413 with 11 walks and 42 whiffs in 121 at-bats. He also has three doubles, three triples and five homers, plus six steals. At this point, he is similar to a 17-year-old Sammy Sosa. When Sammy was 17, he had a 95 percent chance of flaming out and a 5 percent chance of turning into a stud. Lucky for Sammy, everything panned out. I can't claim to have a neutral view on Beltre, as he is on my keeper-league team. POTENTIAL FANTASY IMPACT/ETA: Low (but high upside)/2011.
Matt Maloney, LHP, Cincinnati: A finesse lefty, Maloney was 9-7 with a 3.94 ERA in 125.2 Double-A Eastern League innings at the time of the deal. He has allowed 117 hits and 45 walks versus 115 strikeouts. All his indicators appear solid, but unexciting. His best pitch is a high-80s sinker, but he has decent secondary stuff. If it all comes together, he'll be a Nos. 4-6 fantasy starter. POTENTIAL FANTASY IMPACT/ETA: Modest/2008.
Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas: Andrus is a tyke, a mere 18-year-old who is toiling in high-A. In other words, he could be in the majors by age 20. His bat has been mediocre, but his tools are excellent and he could be a big star with the lumber by the time he's 25. Andrus is batting .244-.330-.335, with 20 doubles, three triples and three homers in 385 at-bats. His discipline is solid (44 walks, 88 whiffs). This kid has tremendous defensive skills, as well. The sky is the limit. POTENTIAL FANTASY IMPACT/ETA: Great/2009.
Matt Harrison, LHP, Texas. Another kid I can't be neutral about because I own him in my keeper league. Harrison has a sinker that peaks in the low-90s, a plus curveball and a plus changeup. He's athletic and 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, and he draws legit comparisons to a young Tom Glavine. Harrison has fallen on hard times in the Double-A Southern League, going 5-7, but with a solid 3.39 ERA. In 116.2 innings, he has allowed 118 hits, including a mere six homers (it's the sinker), and 78 strikeouts versus 34 walks. Harrison has more power in his game than he has shown, and I think he could be a fine No. 3 fantasy starter in time. Give him a year or two. After all, he's still only 21. POTENTIAL FANTASY IMPACT/ETA: Solid/2008.
Neftali Feliz, RHP, Texas: Before his trade to the Rangers, Feliz was reputed to have the best fastball in the Braves organization. Feliz, 19, is still in rookie ball, so he's not someone who is likely to have a fantasy impact until at least 2010. He hits 97 mph and is 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, so there's tremendous potential here. But the odds of his flaming out are also very high. POTENTIAL FANTASY IMPACT/ETA: Tremendous (but with awesome risk)/2012.
Beau Jones, LHP, Texas: A couple of years ago, Jones and Matt Harrison were considered neck and neck. Jones has since had injury issues, and he hasn't been able to show command or a usable changeup. But when he's right, his fastball can touch the mid-90s and his curveball shows potential as a power breaking ball. A 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, he is a deep sleeper. POTENTIAL FANTASY IMPACT/ETA: High-risk, high-reward/2011.
Max Ramirez, C, Texas: Ramirez, 22, is a great acquisition for the Rangers because he is good enough defensively to stick at catcher, leaving Jarrod Saltalamacchia free to concentrate on first base. Max is likely to start next season at Double-A, and he could be in the majors to stay by May 2009. Currently, he is batting .303-.419-.500 in two stops in high-A. He has 20 doubles, 12 homers, 55 walks and 65 whiffs in 284 at-bats. Victor Martinez Jr.? POTENTIAL FANTASY IMPACT/ETA: Excellent/Late 2008.
Will Inman, RHP, San Diego: Inman started the season pitching like Nolan Ryan, but he doesn't have incredible power stuff. His fastball touches the low 90s, but his offspeed stuff isn't the greatest. What he does have is a bulldog attitude and excellent command. Inman started off 4-3 with a 1.72 ERA in 78.2 innings in the Florida State League, whiffing 98 and walking 23. He left for Double-A and ran into a meat grinder. He was 1-5 with a 5.45 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP and seven homers allowed in 39.2 innings before the deal. The thing is, the whiffs have never stopped: He has 140 in 118.1 innings. Can Inman succeed at Double-A? The Brewers are guessing he won't. If he does, he has a good chance of a fine big league career. I'm on the fence about this guy. POTENTIAL FANTASY IMPACT/ETA: Solid/Early 2009.
David Srinivasan writes about statistics and the minors for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. If you have questions or want David to write up a minor leaguer you're interested in, please e-mail him at Srini@TalentedMrRoto.com.